Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is, as you might expect, an adventure game based Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express. In the game as well as in the book, an unsavory character named Ratchett is murdered on board a train, stabbed no less than 12 times, and fellow passenger and famed detective Hercule Poirot must examine the clues and figure out who perpetrated the crime.
Just like with their other Agatha Christie title, Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, developer Awe Games stays pretty close to the source material. The setting is the same, the murder is the same, and quite a bit of the dialogue is quoted directly from the book. Awe Games incorporates a few new characters into the mystery (mostly employees of the train, such as the engineer and the chef), and they add a twist at the end, but the main difference between the book and the game is that you control a character named Antoinette Marceau, and, after Poirot accidentally sprains his ankle, you must act as his eyes and ears.
The problem with Murder on the Orient Express is that the source material isn’t great for a computer game. In the book, Poirot basically sits in the dining car and talks to the other passengers, then he sits in the dining car and thinks about what they said, and then he sits in the dining car and explains what happened. That’s just fine for a book and probably a stage play, but it’s not very exciting for a computer game.
Awe Games adds in some puzzles for you to solve, but most of these are goofy little errands, like when you have to fetch a parasol for Princess Dragomiroff, or when you have to collect some olive oil for the chef. There is only one puzzle that is even remotely complicated, where you have to fix a broken radio, but it’s so convoluted, and the game gives you so little information about how you’re doing, that I doubt many people will be able to solve it without consulting a walkthrough.
That means most of the game involves you questioning passengers and looking for clues. This works reasonably well -- like I said, a lot of the dialogue is quoted directly from the book, and so it is well written, and the voice acting is also solid -- but it’s just that there isn’t a lot for you to do in the investigation. For example, when you talk to people you’re given dialogue choices, but that just means you choose the order in which you ask the questions. You don’t actually influence what gets asked. And then, rather than figuring out what happened on your own, you just relay information to Poirot, and he figures it out. That’s not particularly exciting or fulfilling.
Murder on the Orient Express has some other issues. It involves a confusing case and a lot of surprising revelations, and Awe Games struggled to present the information in the “right” order so as not to give anything away prematurely. More than once my character suddenly knew something that she shouldn’t, and I’m guessing that if I hadn’t re-read the book just before playing the game (the book is actually included with the game), quite a few of the scenes wouldn’t have made any sense.
And so I’m giving Murder on the Orient Express something of a mixed review. The production values of the game are just fine. The train looks authentic, the voice acting is believable, and there are several quality cinematic sequences sprinkled throughout the investigation. But what you do in the adventure isn’t all that fun or exciting, and so I’m not exactly sure who would enjoy it. Mystery fans or fans of Agatha Christie might want to give it a go, but people looking for a traditional adventure should stay away.